SAN JOSE, Calif. – Broadcom is sampling a set of chips to enable a new IEEE standard for precise timing over Ethernet, targeting a range of systems for service provider, data center and smart grid networks. The chips implement the IEEE 1588v2 standard and include embedded software clock from Symmetricom.
IEEE 1588 defines a precision timing protocol for synchronizing clocks on different end devices to within one microsecond over an Ethernet packet-based network. It specifies a way to calculate jitter to determine network latency, addressing applications with precise timing requirements not served by methods such as Network Time Protocol or Global Positioning Systems.
The standard was made final about 18 months ago, and represents an upgrade of the original effort including new tunneling protocol features needed for service provider nets. The University of New Hampshire hosts an interoperability forum for 1588 that has held at least one plugfest. So far its only semiconductor member is Vitesse.
Several chip makers are said to support 1588 including Zarlink. "One of the things you find quickly is [1588 is] a system-level problem in which PHYs, processors and switches need to work together," said Nick Ilyadis, chief technology officer for Broadcom's infrastructure networking group.
That's one reason why Broadcom is rolling out a suite of products, aiming to support an end-to-end solution for 1588. They include nine products now sampling—the BCM53903 processor running Symmetricom's software, the BCM56330 gigabit Ethernet switch and a set of six gigabit Ethernet physical layer chips.
The PHY chips also support the new IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet standard. Hewlett-Packard rolled out a set of Ethernet switches this week using those chips to hit new lows in power consumption.
"1588v2 is critical for Ethernet mobile backhaul transport, where packet timing and synchronization is required to ensure reliable operation and handoff between cellular base stations." said Michael Howard, principal analyst at Infonetics Research, speaking in a press release.
"Almost every new design we see for service provider infrastructure requires 1588 capability," said Chuck Tato, director of processor strategy for the Broadcom group. "PONs, routers, switches, you name it--they are all starting to require 1588 to support wireless backhaul or even to support future femto- or pico-cells on wireline nets," he said.
The timing capability is also critical for emerging power networks used by utilities to monitor and control power systems. Tato said Broadcom is seeing a "growing level of activity and interest" in designing such systems.
The capability is also increasingly needed in high-performance computer systems to synchronize events across large clusters in applications such as so-called high frequency financial trading.